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Town officials and engineers met Thursday to discuss their next step after the contractor on the Sunset Island sewer project backed out, apparently killing hopes that the project would begin before winter.

No decision was reached Thursday, Supervisor Walter W. Evans said. Town Attorney F. Warren Kahn said it's evident that "this year's construction season is out."

Socko Contracting Co. mentioned the late start and the winterization of some sewers the Town Board added to the plans Monday in a letter withdrawing its $549,977 bid.

That change, for homes slated to receive grinder pump sewers, would add about $30,000 to the cost, according to Orest P. Ciolko of Wendel Engineers.

Socko's objection to the added cost left Ciolko scratching his head. "There's nothing saying he'd have to pay for it," the engineer commented.

Ciolko said the extra cost stems from the need to insulate and heat a sewer pipe connecting the two islands. That pipe is to run above the water along the side of the causeway linking the islands.

The name Sunset Island is used to refer to two islands just off the Lake Ontario shore which have about 85 mainly seasonal homes between them.

The withdrawal left the board in a bind because the Division of Audit and Control in the state comptroller's office had set a $565,000 cost limit on the project, and the other bids received were far above that.

Kahn explained, "The comptroller gives (the town) authority to spend based on the assessed valuation of the (sewer) district and the ability of the people to pay."

Evans said options discussed Thursday included rebidding the project with the new specifications, or asking Audit and Control to raise the spending ceiling.

Kahn mentioned a third option, that of dropping the project altogether, which he said would be "a waste." He noted that about $75,000 in engineering, legal, and administrative fees have been spent on the project since 1991.

The Town Board Monday added year-round service as part of the sewer project for six homes at the eastern end of the large island, and all 13 homes on the small island.

Evans said affected residents, who would not have been able to use their properties during the winter months, complained. "They felt that was discriminating (against them), and it was," he said.

Kathleen M. Casey, an island property owner who has been vocal in her opposition to the way in which the sewer project was planned and expected to be paid for, commented, "It's unfortunate that there couldn't have been better communication between the town, the (Sunset Island) sewer committee, and the residents."

Mrs. Casey expressed hope that more state grant funding will be available next year, which might eliminate the plan to have island property owners pay the full cost of the project through a special assessment of about $800 per property per year.

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